- The Lakers will open with Kobe Bryant guarding Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook when the teams meet today at Staples Center, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game. The goal, D’Antoni said, is to “just have [Westbrook] not kill us.” Westbrook has practically done that in two previous meetings against the Lakers this season. He had 27 points and 10 assists two weeks ago in a 116-101 victory at Staples Center. Back in December, he scored 33 points and distributed eight assists in a 114-108 victory in Oklahoma City. D’Antoni also said Earl Clark will continue to start at power forward and will open the game guarding Kevin Durant, who has surpassed his season average of 29.5 points in four of the last five games. Pau Gasol will continue coming off the bench for L.A.
- Expect the Thunder to open the game with Thabo Sefolosha guarding Bryant, who enters the game third in the league in scoring (28.9) behind Durant and Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks (29.0). Bryant scored 35 points in the first meeting this season against the Thunder and 28 in the second, but shot a combined 19-for-47 from the floor (40.4 percent). Bryant was more of a facilitator in L.A.’s win Friday night against visiting Utah, matching his season-low with 14 points but distributing a season-high 14 assists. He also took a more active role on the boards, finishing with nine rebounds.
- The Lakers are on the verge of matching their franchise record for losses in a single month. They are currently 3-10 in January with three more games remaining. Counting last season’s playoffs, the Lakers have lost nine of their last 11 against Oklahoma City.
- Oklahoma City is concluding a stretch of six consecutive road games and nine of 10 away from home. The Thunder are 15-7 on the road this season, the top winning percentage in the league, but will need a win in L.A. to complete their latest trip with a winning record.
– Dan Arritt